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How to Play 'Chinese Whispers'

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Though misleading, the name of this well-known but sometimes irritating game does involve the usage of whispers, but not necessarily in Chinese. In fact, it is possible to do this in any language, but it is suggested that you check that participants can understand the language chosen to avoid uproar and cries of disgust when the word(s) or phrase(s) are revealed at the end.

Why play 'Chinese Whispers'?

Somehow, this simple game can relieve boredom in the strangest of ways at parties, there is nothing else to do and you are really stuck for ideas. This is especially effective at children's birthday parties.


To play 'Chinese Whispers', you will need:

  • Four or more people
  • Chairs (optional)1

How to play ''Chinese Whispers''

  1. Depending on the number of people (11 is a nice number), put the players in a suitable formation that is comfortable for everyone. The usual formation is a circle or similar shape, with the players tight against the edge of the wall, but each team to their own preference.

  2. Now, one person decides on a word or phrase to whisper into the ear of the person next to them. It does not matter what word or phrase is chosen.

  3. The person who had the word/phrase whispered to them now passes it to the person next to them in the same way as before, and so on down the team of people.

  4. When it gets to the last person to have the word/phrase whispered to them, they have to say what they think was whispered to them. If it is correct, then you may do some kind of celebration to reflect the joy of getting it right.

    On the other hand, it may be the complete opposite, or it may have metamorphosised into something totally unrelated and somewhat baffling.

Variations on the Game

If you have an exceptionally large group, it is possible to split them into equal teams. A word/phrase is picked at random (this can be from a dictionary, thesaurus, any other book or magazine), and must be passed as fast around the team as possible. Points are won for accuracy of the word/phrase and speed, or perhaps even comic genius if it is changed into something that is funny.

However, there are many problems with just one team as there are with several.

Common Problems with 'Chinese Whispers'

Here are some of the problems with 'Chinese Whispers' have been listed and possible solutions given:

  • Q.I cannot hear the what the person whispered to me. What should I do?

  • A. Don't worry. Just whisper what you think the person whispered to you to the next person. It is generally accepted that you won't get the word to the end in perfect shape.

  • Q.I cannot remember what the person whispered to me. What should I do?

  • A. Well, try to. Whisper what you can remember. If you are really stuck, then change it, but it is not recommended to do this, unless you want to be labelled as the most childish person on the team.

  • Q.Most of the players are childish and are prone to deliberately altering the word into something supposed to be amusing. How can I tackle this problem?

  • A. Unfortunately, there is no known solution for this problem.

Famous 'Chinese Whispers'

Some whispers and their metamorphoses have become so famous that everyone knows them. Here is a list of a few of them, so you know what could happen if you chose one of these:

  • 'Send reinforcements, we're going to advance' - 'Send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance.

Either way, along with Pass the Parcel and Hot Potato, 'Chinese Whispers' takes its place alonside some of the greatest party games ever played.

1In case the players prefer to stay seated while the game is going on.

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